Scientific authority and blind consent

If religious faith is indoctrinated, it stems less from ourselves than from a source outside us, which controls us in various degrees and which may even robotize our thinking entirely.
The same may be applied to political, economic, or even scientific thought. Granted, to seek information from specialists is critically necessary. But it makes a huge difference whether our consent is blind or informed according to our various capacities.

To illustrate: the Big Bang is widely accepted among the general public on the authority of many if not most astrophysicists and quantum particle theorists. Incredible as it seems, the Big Bang is claimed by many to explode into the whole universe, 13.7 billion light years or more, from a “singularity,” smaller than an atom. We may swallow this assertion with a big gulp based on the authority of scientific specialists or we may assent by examining evidence to the best of our ability and time, thinking robustly for ourselves, inside-out, and less easily misled.

Other illustrations include theories about invisible matter. invisible energy, the age and expansion of the universe, and variously touted hypotheses about the possibility of a multi-verse. Also proposed are parallel universes, endless universes, or dimensions which exceed the four space/time dimensions which we experience. Some of these claims can be neither verified nor falsified. Rather, they are based on mathematical possibilities which may never be confirmed as actually existing. Some of them may run amok like a train out of control. Specialists like Peter Woit include String Theory among them as “not even wrong,” that is, intrinsically coherent, but lacking external evidence.

Accepting these meanderings on scientific authority alone, may lead us to swallow them blindly and cause our overall thinking to decay into increasing passivity. By contrast, thinking for ourselves in the present expands into the increasingly active adventure of critical thought in the rest of our lives. Our entire mindset can evolve actively, from dealing with small details of daily life to pondering grand theories (not touted grandiosely) about the meaning of life, intelligence, and the cosmos–“daring to go where too few have dared to go before.”

3 Comments

  1. Derrick Hindery September 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Very insightful. Unfortunately, indoctrination is all around and we have to equip ourselves with critical thought to avoid succumbing to it.

    • admin October 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. Agreed. Indoctrination impedes or cripples autonomous thought and feeling on the right, left, and mainstream.

  2. Derrick hindery February 11, 2016 at 4:11 am #

    Juanita Sundberg wrote an influential article several years ago illustrating this point in the conservation science in which The knowledge of so called experts in conservation essentially displaced the important knowledge possessed by local indigenous and farmer communities living in the Peten, Guatemala. In my book From Enron to Evo I have also shown this in the case of the conflictive Chiquitano Forest conservation program in Bolivia in which international conservation organizations and some Bolivian conservation organizations excluded and to this very day continue to exclude indigenous peoples from the governing board of the program, assuming that their scientific knowledge is superior or incompatible with indigenous peoples knowledge. See http://ppel.arizona.edu/?p=931

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